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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Facts

Area: 2,345,410 sq km
Population: 58,784,400 (estimated)
Capital City: Kinshasa (approx 8 million)
People: Over 200 African ethnic groups of which the majority are Bantu; the 4 largest tribes – Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbtu-Azande (Hamitic) make up about 45% of the population.
Language(s): French (official), Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba.
Religion(s): Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other sects and indigenous beliefs 10%.
Currency: Congolese franc
Major political parties: Parti du Peuple pour la Réconstruction et la Démocratie (PPRD), Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC), Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS), Union Pour La Nation Congolaise (UNC), Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD), Mouvement Social pour la Renouveau (MSR), Parti Unifié Lumumbiste (PALU), Forces du Renouveau, Union des Democrates Mobutistes (UDEMO), Coalition des Democrates Congolais (CODECO), Union Nationale de Federalistes en Congo (UNAFEC), RCD-Nationale (RCD-N),
Head of State: President Joseph Kabila (elected 2006)
Prime Minister: Adolphe Muzito
Foreign Minister: Alexis Thambwe
Membership of international groupings: UN, African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community(SADC), and Community of East and Southern African States (COMESA).

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts (2006 estimates)

GDP: US$9.1 bn
GDP growth: over 7% (2010 est).
Inflation: 15.1% (2010/11 est).
Major Exports: Diamonds, oil, cobalt, copper.
Major Trading Partners (2005): Exports - Belgium, China, Chile, Finland. Imports - South Africa, Belgium, France, Kenya.
Exchange Rate: Franc Congolais 920 = $1 (2010).

Economy

The macro economy is in recovery but remains fragile. The DRC was hit hard by the global economic crisis in 2008/09 as commodity prices collapsed. Sensible economic management with support from IMF has helped restore stability. Aided by renewed copper and other minerals prices the economy is now recovering with growth in 2010 estimated to have been just above 7%. With improved economic management and other key reforms underway, the IMF and World Bank approved debt relief for DRC worth $12.3 bn at end June 2010.

The economy remains fragile and highly vulnerable to external factors; it is highly dependent on commodities (extractive industries accounted for 25% of growth in 2008). The DRC needs to consider how to diversify and drive growth via other sectors. Inflation stabilised through 2010 but looks set to increase again in 2011, to a large extent driven by global food and fuel prices. This will likely also have implications for the Congolese Franc which again stabilised in 2010 (after rapid depreciation in 2008/09) and currently stands at approximately CDF925:$1

The business environment is one of the worst in the world. The DRC is ranked 175 out of 183 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business Survey. Improving the business environment a key part of IMF programme and will be critical for longer term growth and stability. Foreign direct investment peaked at $1.7 bn in 2008 and fell to $630 million in 2009. It is expected to recover from 2010, but this is threatened by Government behaviour with regards to a few big investors (e.g. cancelling mining contracts) which is providing a big disincentive to investment in DRC.

International trade is important but there is currently no clear strategy to maximise the benefits. Exports were equivalent to 40% of GDP in 2009, and imports equivalent to 45%. Exports are sectorally concentrated (almost all linked to mining) but are opening up geographically in recent years, with China becoming an important partner. The DRC is a member of many regional economic and political groupings [ 1] but has not yet implemented their free trade protocols. For political reasons the DRC is negotiating the economic partnership agreement with the EC as part of a central African grouping that offers little in terms of strategic economic opportunities i.e. through complementary exports. East and Southern African countries would make more natural partners, allowing the DRC to better exploit current trade routes with Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia etc.

The poor state of transport infrastructure (road, rail, water, air) poses a significant challenge to enhancing the role of trade and regional integration in DRCs development. Red tape, corruption, inconsistent application of tax codes and weak rule of law all tend to encourage informal trade and discourage investment

[ 1] Including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market of East and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC)

The state budget is small and so has little impact on poverty reduction. All of the above adds up to a low level of domestic revenues generated in DRC – estimated at only 15% of GDP in 2008 (compared to 38% in the UK). The DRC budget for 2011 is tiny yet still probably over-estimated at just below $7 billion of which only $4 billion is expected to be financed domestically. The remainder is set to be financed via foreign aid.

Poor public financial management and extreme levels of corruption mean that even the limited resources available are not used to maximum effect to fight poverty in DRC. Public spending on key poverty sectors in DRC is extremely low; for example public spending on education in 2009 was only $225 million (2.1% of GDP) and for health was $63 million (0.6% of GDP).


Aid to DRC

Official Development Assistance (ODA) as % of Gross National Income is relatively high in DRC, at 15% compared to 11% in Uganda or 9% in Ghana. External financing covers a large portion of the budget (estimated at approx 40% in 2011 – including significant investment), but these figures reflect low income and low budgets rather than high levels of ODA. The DRC is under aided in per capita terms at $25 per head [ 2] compared to a $96 in Rwanda and a Sub Saharan African Average of $49.

[ 2] Based on a very cautious estimate of the population, so likely to overstate actual level of ODA per head.

IMF Country Reports - Democratic Republic of Congo (http://www.imf.org/external/country/COD/index.htm)
Government Diamond Office (#)

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HISTORY

DRC (formerly Zaire) gained independence from Belgium in June 1960. Following a period of political instability, General Mobutu, the Chief of the Army, came to power in an army coup in 1965 and remained largely unchallenged throughout the 1970s and 1980s. President Mobutu presided over endemic corruption and reputedly built up a large personal fortune. Moves towards democratisation in the early 1990s did not succeed in removing him from power. But an already-fragile state was further weakened by the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when in October 1996 dissident groups, led by Laurent Kabila and strongly supported by Rwanda and Uganda, rose in revolt. They entered Kinshasa on 17 May 1997. Laurent Kabila declared himself President. Mobutu fled to Morocco where he subsequently died.

Internal and external dissatisfaction with the new President grew until late summer 1998, when a new rebel group announced itself, again backed by Rwanda and Uganda, and a second conflict broke out. SADC states led by Zimbabwe and Angola intervened on the side of the Kabila Government. By mid-1999 front-lines had stabilised, with 3 belligerent groups respectively controlling a third of the country, each backed by different regional states. A cease-fire was signed in Lusaka in August 1999. The United Nations Security Council established a peacekeeping force known as MONUC to facilitate the implementation of the Lusaka Accord. It has a budget exceeding US$1 billion and is now over 17,000 strong making it the largest current UN peacekeeping mission.

In January 2001 President Kabila was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. His son, Joseph Kabila, took over as the new head of State on 26 January 2001 and proved more amenable to negotiations. Foreign forces gradually departed, and a protracted Inter-Congolese Dialogue led to an agreement between the belligerents and members of the political opposition on the formation of a transitional national government (TNG). This was agreed by the parties on 2 April 2003 in Sun City (South Africa). The TNG was promulgated on 30 June 2003, formally ending a war that had cost an estimated four million lives.

The Transitional National Government (TNG) was made up of three major belligerent groups, a number of smaller ex-rebel movements, civil society and political opposition representatives. The TNG had a '1 + 4' leadership, with a President (Joseph Kabila) and Vice Presidents (Jean-Pierre Bemba, Azarias Ruberwa, Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma and Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi). The TNG was hindered by continuing violence in the east of the country, massive humanitarian needs, widespread corruption and periods of high tension between former belligerent groups who were making up the government.

In 2006 Joseph Kabila was elected President in DRC’s first elections for over 40 years.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

The DRC's relations with its neighbours were very poor between 1994 and 2005, particularly with Rwanda and Uganda. This was due to allegations of Congolese support for Rwandan and Ugandan rebel groups based on Congolese territory and to Rwandan and Ugandan military interventions into the DRC in 1996 and 1998.

There have however been improvements in regional tensions in recent years. In mid-to-late 2002 the DRC signed peace agreements with both Rwanda and Uganda, after which both countries withdrew their troops from the Congo. This has led to some normalisation in relations between the DRC and both Uganda and Rwanda, though tensions remain, largely due to the continued presence of rebel groups on DRC territory. Joint military operations between DRC-Rwanda against the extremist rebel group the FDLR (Forces Democratiques du Liberation du Rwanda), which commenced in 2009, and between the DRC and Uganda against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have also served to strengthen relationships. The DRC and Rwanda now hold regular ministerial meetings to discuss future areas of co-operation. The DRC’s relations with its other neighbours, are generally cordial, although DRC and Angola continue to be in a territorial dispute over access to oil reserves.

Sanctions

The EU and member states imposed an arms embargo on the DRC (then Zaire) by means of Declaration of 7 April 1993 and adopted Council Regulation (EC) No 1727/2003 on 29 September 2003. The United Nations imposed an arms embargo in July 2003 – Security Council Resolution 1493 (2003), extended by SC Resolution 1552 (2004), 1596 (2005), 1649 (2005) and 1698 (2006). No licences will be issued for the export to the DRC of goods and technology on the Military List which forms Part II of the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994, as amended. UN sanctions (UNSCRs 918, 997 and 1011) also impose restrictions on the sale or supply of arms and related material to persons in States neighbouring Rwanda, including DRC, when the goods in question are intended for use in Rwanda.

The UN sanctions regime for DRC and the mandate of the Group of Experts that monitors it was renewed in 2010 for a further year. It currently comprises an arms embargo (with exemptions for government forces and UN peacekeeping forces) and asset freezes and travel bans for entities and individuals judged to be negatively affecting the peace processes.

Relations with the UK

Diplomatic Representation

The UK has an Embassy in Kinshasa. DFID have an office in the DRC and run an extensive development programme. The DRC has an Embassy in London.

Recent Visits

Outward:
-- January 2002: Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
-- July and February 2002: Clare Short, then Secretary of State for International Development
-- August 2003: Adam Ingram, Minister for the Armed Forces
-- December 2003: Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development
-- June 2004: Chris Mullin, Minister for Africa
-- April 2004: Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development
-- November 2005: Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development
-- September 2006: Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development
-- December 2006: John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister
-- November 2008: David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
-- January 2009: Douglas Alexander. Secretary of State for International Development
-- September 2009: Gareth Thomas, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, and Ivan Lewis, Minister of State, Foreign Office
-- February 2010: Baroness Kinnock, Minister for Africa
-- July 2010: Henry Bellingham, Minister for Africa and Stephen O’Brien, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for International Development

Inward:

-- January 2002: Foreign Minister Okitundu
-- March 2002: Foreign Minister Okitundu
-- February 2004: President Joseph Kabila
-- March 2004: President of the National Assembly, Olivier Kamitatu
-- March 2004: President of the Senate Marini
-- November 2004: Vice President Azarias Ruberwa
-- October 2010: Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe

Policy

For UK policy statements in parliament see the Hansard website (http://www.parliament.uk/hansard/hansard.cfm) .

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GEOGRAPHY

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) lies on the equator and has borders with 9 African countries – Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola. It has a small coastline on the Atlantic. The central region has an equatorial climate with high temperatures and heavy rainfall, with different climatic cycles in the northern and southern regions.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports to DR Congo in the first half (Jan - July) 2010 20 amounted to £8.6 million (13% increase on 2009).
UK imports from DR Congo in the first half (Jan - July) 2010 were valued at £3.6 million (131% increase on 2009).

Development

The Democratic Republic of Congo has huge potential, with some of the most valuable and diverse natural resources in the world. But war and decades of misrule and mismanagement have devastated the economy leaving the physical and social infrastructure shattered. DRC ranks 167 out of 177 countries on the UN Human Development Report 2007. Most Congolese are extremely poor, living in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day. Human Rights abuses occur on a massive scale with extremely high levels of sexual violence against women and children. The UN estimates that there are over 1.9 million internally displaced people in DRC requiring humanitarian assistance.

However, with an end to civil war in 2003 and with successful democratic elections in 2006, the DRC now has an unprecedented opportunity to escape a cycle of conflict and suffering and realise its potential. The UK Government is committed to helping the people and government of DRC sustain peace and reduce poverty. In 2003 the Department for International Development (DFID) took the decision to establish a major bilateral development programme in DRC.

DfID’s Country Plan for DRC supports three strategic objectives:

To meet urgent humanitarian needs and to reduce remaining violent conflict and its impact:

Humanitarian assistance

-- Community reconstruction

To support an accountable and effective state:
-- Support the state to deliver security and access to justice

-- Promote an inclusive and accountable political system

To support a sustainable peace leading to poverty reduction. To help the Government deliver a peace dividend for poor people:

Promote economic growth that benefits the poor

-- Promote access to basic services by the poor (roads, education, health, water and sanitation)

In 2011 DFID announced their 2011-2015 Operational Plan for the DRC. As a result, UK aid will almost double over the next four years from US$200 million this year to US$380 million by 2015. This means that the UK will be able to offer significantly more help to improve water supplies, tackle malaria, improve basic health services, get more children into school and build and renovate roads.

The UK will also be able to assist with essential reforms to police services, public financial management and the strengthening of peace, security, democracy and accountability. Furthermore, we will increase our efforts to promote economic growth and trade and to improving the business climate. All of this work will be undertaken in line with the DRC’s national development priorities.

The UK is strongly committed to providing aid that delivers real results, represents value for money and is delivered in a fully transparent way. Full delivery of these results, and of the UK’s aid offer, will depend on the policies and actions of the DRC government. British officials will work closely with the government of the DRC, and with our other development partners, to ensure that these requirements are met and that UK aid can make a real contribution to a more prosperous and stable DRC.

United Nations Development Programme (http://www.undp.org/)
World Bank (http://web.worldbank.org)
DFID Country Profile: Democratic Republic of Congo (http://www.dfid.gov.uk/countries/africa/congo.asp)

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POLITICS

The first democratic elections for over 40 years took place in July and October 2006. Joseph Kabila was elected President with 58.05% of the vote in the second round. He was inaugurated as President on 6 December 2006 for a five-year term.

The elected National Assembly held its opening session on 22 September 2006. The PPRD party of President Kabila took 114 of 500 seats, the largest number of any political party, and controlled more than 200 through its political allies. On 19 January 2007 a 108 seat Senate was indirectly elected, with the PPRD again taking the largest share of seats (22), with the MLC (party of Jean-Pierre Bemba) obtaining 14. Parliamentarians have a 5-year mandate.

Jean-Pierre Bemba is now on trial in the International Criminal Court in the Hague, where he is accused of war crimes in the Central African Republic, leaving the MLC a diminished force. The two main opposition candidates contesting the 2011 elections appear likely to be long term opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi (UDPS), and former speaker of Parliament Vital Kamerhe (UNC).

The DRC also continues to be affected by violence and insecurity, especially in the east where the continued presence of Rwandan rebels, primarily the FDLR, and other militia groups, have displaced hundreds of thousands and created an ongoing humanitarian disaster. Although there have been pockets of improvement recently in Congolese army behaviour the ill-disciplined and poorly-paid armed forces continue to pose a threat to civilians across the country, and the needs of the Congolese population remain immense.

BBC News Country Profile: Democratic Republic of Congo (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1076399.stm)
BBC News: Africa (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/default.stm)

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Abuses of human rights and humanitarian standards by the remaining rebel militias and Congolese army continue at a high level, particularly in the east of the country. There are frequent reports of summary execution of civilians, widespread rape and sexual violence, banditry and forced labour. Conflict in the east of the country has led to ongoing human rights abuses against the civilian population, including incidents of mass rape in 2010. Reports of intimidation and arbitrary arrest of human rights workers, journalists and political leaders have remained high since the elections in 2006. In 2010 the death of the human rights defender Floribert Chebeya elicited wide spread international concern. Justice for victims of human rights abuses has been sparse and impunity remains a serious problem, but there has been some recent progress. In 2006 former militia leader Thomas Lubanga was transferred to the International Criminal Court, on charges of war crimes, followed in 2007 by fellow Ituri militia leader Germain Katanga. In 2008 former DRC vice president Jean- Pierre Bemba was arrested in Belgium and transferred to the ICC for crimes committed in the CAR. And earlier in 2011 a commanding officer and eight soldiers in the Congolese army were tried and convicted for their role in the mass rape of over 50 women in the town of Fizi. However ICC indictee Bosco Ntaganda remains at large and the UK continues to press DRC to arrest him and hand him over to ICC custody.

FCO Human Rights Command Paper 2010/11 (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/global-issues/human-rights/)

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Last Updated: June 2011

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